I saw “Warehoused”, a funny and pungent Mexican film from 2015 on Netflix. Directed by Jack Zagha Kababie, from a script by David Desola, I found its deadpan absurdist comedy quite refreshing.
In five sections, it follows the apprenticeship of a young man, Nin, to become the manager of a warehouse after the retirement of the outgoing manager, Sr. Lino, who will train him for the job. The training is to last five days, Monday to Friday, which is the subtitled heading for each section. With the exception of the brief appearance of a truck driver, and an uncredited ant, the entire film consists of Sr. Lino’s increasingly bizarre training of his replacement inside the near empty warehouse. The relationship of the two men is often contentious, but we see it slowly evolve into a kind of grudging warmth.
The first fifteen minutes are misleadingly dull; both men, due to a mutual wariness, are slow to talk. One of the wittiest touches of the screenplay is the loud minute-by-minute “tick” of the time clock for the two workers. After a dead, and deadly silence between them, its sudden punctuation, although seemingly unnoticed by them, brings a chuckle.
The listed products of the company are flagpoles and masts, which are also made by its competitor, who is the industry leader. Sr. Lino is deeply concerned that the company should not fall further behind. He is manager of the warehouse for masts; there is a separate warehouse for flagpoles somewhere else. He impresses upon Nin that he must always be ready for a shipment, and expect to be held accountable by the company’s president if delivery is delayed because of him.
The slender story, such as it is, rests on how Nin, who seems normal, if a little dim at first, slowly realizes that Sr. Lino is seriously delusional about the company and his job in general. The elderly manager introduces a number of tropes which are returned to repeatedly, to delightful comic effect: Nin cannot be allowed to punch in until he puts on his work coat; Nin must stand alongside Sr. Lino, who is seated in the only chair, and not move from the spot; and, on a more intimate level, that Nin is probably scarred for life because his father gave him such a strange name, and then disappeared without ever telling him what it meant. But, above all, that Nin must punch in for his 7:00 A.M. shift at 6:53 because the time clock is seven minutes slow, yet he still can’t leave before the clock reads 3:00, the end of his shift, resulting in his having to work an extra seven minutes without pay. Still, Sr. Lino is shocked that Nin asks why the clock has never been fixed. He answers that it’s been that way for all thirty-nine years he’s worked there; that’s just the way it’s supposed to be.
Slowly, however, we begin to see that Nin is not as dim as he appears. Hoze Melendez gives a quiet, yet attentive performance; there is a lot going on. His questions show an alert curiosity, and betray a bemused resentment of his situation. While he enjoys baiting the elderly man at first, he comes to pity him, and finds the company’s cold and deceitful exploitation of the man to be outrageous. With only two telephone calls, Nin changes how the company does business forever, and fashions some degree of justice for its exploitation of Sr. Lino. Surprises are in store, especially at what Sr. Lino finds in the warehouse on his last day of work. The only minor flaw is a late conversation between the two men which places them both at a level of political awareness that seems out of character.
The two actors are dead-on perfect together. The film can even serve as a primer on the art of comic timing. But the celebrated Jose Carlos Ruiz, as Sr. Lino, is beyond extraordinary. His deeply lined face is virtually a frozen mask of terror and impending doom. With sudden, totally misdirected outbursts of fury at Nin, he reveals the extent of his hidden resentment over how his life has been ruined by the company he worshipped.
In short, check out this gem from Mexico. You don’t even need a pandemic to enjoy it.